When I was young, my mother made my brother and me drink prune juice (for obvious reasons). I dreaded walking into the kitchen and seeing that glass full of thick, purple poison awaiting me. I held my nose and reluctantly drank, since I knew it was good for me. But it did not taste good. I go through seasons when I view God’s Word like prune juice. In these moments my soul lethargically sits down to read, and my thoughts wander to my to-do list shortly after starting. Opening God’s Word sometimes feels more like a chore than a delight. Yet this is not how David describes it. David describes God’s Word as “sweeter than honey” (Ps. 119:103). It should taste good to our souls, because it is good for our souls. When Scripture is sweeter to me than honey, I run to it as to living water, and I think about his words and the implications of them for my life throughout my day. But what do we do—especially in bitter and busy seasons—when reading God’s Word seems less like honey and more like prune juice? Give Your Time Meditation takes time, which many of us may protest we don’t have. And yet it’s hard to believe David could say that he loved God’s law (Ps. 119:97) without having given time to digging deep and memorizing, meditating on, and understanding it. God’s Word is the psalmist’s meditation all day long (Ps. 119:97). The Hebrew word for “meditation” here refers to an object of “musing, study, or prayer.” In biblical meditation, we are filling our minds to think deeply on a verse, a passage, or a theme. The difference between reading and meditating on it is the difference between raking and digging. As with raking leaves, you can read the… Read More
Audio Transcript Just recently, Pastor John and Noël traveled to Holland, France, and Germany. Earlier in the year, they traveled to South America. And earlier in the spring, they were in Ireland and Scotland. All those trips were ministry trips on behalf of Desiring God. Our ministry partners make these international trips possible. So thank you. Today I want to share with you one moment captured in Scotland, recorded at a conference hosted by our friends at 20schemes. In Scotland, a “scheme” is something like a housing project, a government-subsidized neighborhood that’s pretty rough, known for high crime and rampant drug use. More troubling, over half of Scotland’s schemes are gospel-less places. 20schemes is a ministry to change this by planting gospel-loving churches right into these areas of deprivation. While in Scotland, Pastor John sat down to field audience questions from one of those church planters, Andy Prime, who relayed to Pastor John the following question. Have a listen. Andy Prime: Someone says, “Hi, Pastor John. I’m someone who has been exposed to a lot of Christian talks and events in the last couple of years, but I am still struggling to put my faith in Christ. What advice could you give me?” John Piper: Wow, I wish I knew you. I would really probe before I gave an answer. I would probe the word struggle. What is that? I want to help you so bad to get over that. Let me just say what comes to my mind. Narrow Way, Light Load Let me give you two texts, and then tell you why the word struggle is a little odd and yet understandable. In Matthew 7:14, Jesus said, “The gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Now,… Read More
Mark David Hall—the Herbert Hoover distinguished professor of politics and faculty fellow in the William Penn Honors Program at George Fox University—is swimming against a certain scholarly stream in his new book, Did America Have a Christian Founding? Separating Modern Myth from Historical Truth (Thomas Nelson, 2019). Unlike a David Barton, Hall is a serious historian committed to historical honesty and going where the evidence leads him. In this regard, Hall is part of an important school of thought—represented by scholars like Thomas Kidd, Daniel Dreisbach, Mark Noll, and others—showing the (complicated) influence of Christian ideas on the Founding of America. If someone were to ask me whether America had a “Christian founding”—the question that headlines this book—I would have to know how they defined that term before I could offer an answer. Hall write that there are five options of what we could mean by a “Christian founding”: [Option 1: The Founders Were Self-Identified Christians] One possibility is simply that the founders identified themselves as Christians, which they clearly did. In 1776, every colonist, with the exception of about two thousand Jews, identified himself or herself as a Christian. Approximately 98 percent of them were Protestants, and the remaining 2 percent were Roman Catholics. But these facts alone are not particularly useful. These men and women may have been bad Christians, may have been Christians significantly influenced by non-Christian ideas, or may even have been Christians self-consciously attempting to create a secular political order. As we shall see, there are good reasons to reject these possibilities, but even so, it is necessary to dig deeper. [Option 2: The Founders Were All Sincere Christians] A second possibility is that the founders were all sincere Christians. This would be a more interesting finding, yet sincerity is difficult for scholars, or anyone else, to… Read More
Evangelical. We hear it in the press all the time. Almost exclusively in political terms. The “Evangelical right” as a voting block. That is the way most people hear, understand and interact with the word. But it wasn’t always so. Going back to the days before the Reformation, “evangelicals” were just what the name means – they were “gospelers” – heralds of the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. Evangelicals were simply those who had heard, believed, and now spread the “good news” – the Gospel – the “evangel” that Jesus had died to make an atonement for human sin, that all who put their trust in His substitutionary death, could be, WOULD be, reconciled to God. We’ve come a long way. And sadly we’ve let those outside of Evangelicalism reshape how that label is understood and used. And perhaps, even those who consider themselves evangelicals might be surprised to know what that has meant historically. And to that end, we are reviewing Bishop J. C. Ryle’s five leading features of Evangelical Religion. Last time we looked at number – (a) The first leading feature in Evangelical Religion is the absolute supremacy it assigns to Holy Scripture, as the only rule of faith and practice, the only test of truth, the only judge of controversy. Today, I submit to you number 2. Here’s Ryle: (b) The second leading feature in Evangelical Religion is the depth and prominence it assigns to the doctrine of human sinfulness and corruption.Its theory is that in consequence of Adam’s fall, all men are as far as possible gone from original righteousness, and are of their own natures inclined to evil. They are not only in a miserable, pitiable, and bankrupt condition, but in a state of guilt, imminent danger, and condemnation before God. They are not only… Read More
I spend a lot of time with church planters. Whether it’s Acts 29 assessment conferences or Portico Church’s own residency efforts, I’m privileged to invest in the next generation of pastors. So many of these young church planters I encounter are full of David’s heart, Moses’s humility, and Elijah’s conviction. A few months ago, I watched Ray Ortlund and Sam Storms answer questions about enduring in ministry. With more than 70 years of vocational ministry between them, Ray and Sam reminded me that church planting isn’t just about sowing seeds up front—it’s also about the harvest at the end. Many of us start strong but finish weak. As my first boss used to say, “Some say they’d rather burn out than fizzle out. But either way, they’re out!” The point is, stay in. Early zeal matters little if you fail to finish well. After 25 years of vocational ministry—including 15 in church planting—I’ve at least learned what not to do. Here are three common pitfalls young church planters face, and some suggestions on how to remedy them. 1. Know when ‘good’ is good enough. Author Eric Ries first introduced me to the concept of the MVP—minimum viable product—in The Lean Startup. When starting a business, you can’t afford to chase perfection. An MVP must have the necessary basic features for early adopters to lead you to the next stage of development. This means that, early on, you can’t quibble over trivial concerns. If you’re less than two years into your church plant, you need to think about your young church as an “MVP.” One can argue about what features are essential in a young church—things like clear gospel teaching, commitment to discipleship, and a healthy understanding of what constitutes a church—but your sermon series’ title sequence probably doesn’t make the cut.… Read More
ABSTRACT: The Apocrypha is a collection of books written in the four centuries between the Old and New Testaments. Though the Apocrypha is not Scripture, many Protestants (including Luther, Calvin, and other Reformers) have found the collection useful historically, theologically, and spiritually. Discerning readers of the Apocrypha gain a fuller understanding of first-century Judaism, including the messianic fervor that led, in part, to Jesus’s passion. For our ongoing series of feature articles by scholars for pastors, leaders, and teachers, we asked Professor David Briones to provide an overview of the Apocrypha’s history and the potential benefits it can offer Protestants. Most Protestants have never read the Apocrypha. Many don’t even know what the term apocrypha means. And the majority don’t care to read books that aren’t in their Bibles. Is this a bad thing? Shouldn’t the Apocrypha be kept out of sight and out of mind? Protestants who were raised Roman Catholic would probably say, “Of course!” They have come to learn that the Apocrypha is uninspired and supports erroneous Roman Catholic dogma. And that’s more than enough reason to disregard it. “The Apocrypha provides us with rich historical information that illumines our understanding of the New Testament.” Tweet Share on Facebook As accurate as that negative assessment is, disregarding the Apocrypha isn’t necessarily the right response. We can read it discerningly yet constructively, critically yet charitably. Doing so will lead one to see the many ways it actually enhances our understanding of the divinely inspired Scriptures. So, rather than thrusting the Apocrypha out of your sight and out of your mind, I want to give you a glimpse of what you’d be missing if you did. After providing a brief description and history of the Apocrypha, I will lay out some of the theological and spiritual benefits this questionable… Read More
‘; jQuery(“#listen”).html(htmldata); flag = 1; } }); }); What should we do about idols that creep into our lives and hinder our walk? We live in a generation where distractions from technology are at an all-time high, and God forbid we allow ourselves to get swept into it.
November 4, 2019 | By: Sam Storms My friend Denny Burk recently wrote a blog article in response to mine on whether or not it is biblically permissible to call a woman a “pastor”. I appreciate his taking the time to give serious consideration to my argument, but I fear that he has misunderstood the primary point that I labored to make. Denny cites the development of the Baptist Faith & Message (hereafter BF&M) by pointing out that “all three terms (bishop/elder/pastor) are merely three ways of referring to the one office of leadership in the local church.” Burk contends that this is based on “biblical exegesis’ and not unbiblical tradition or fear. He then cites the commentary on the 2000 BF&M: “The Bible says that every pastor is to serve as a bishop who exercises and fulfills the ministry of the Word on behalf of the congregation as the gathered people of God.” In point of fact, the Bible says no such thing. There is not a single text in Scripture which says that “every pastor” is also a bishop or elder. It most assuredly does say that every bishop or elder is to serve as a pastor. But the reverse is simply not true. That is the point of my article that Burk seems to miss. Burk repeatedly asserts that “pastor” is an office. This is the very point I dispute in my article, and no biblical text has been cited to prove otherwise. The word “pastor” is never used of an “office.” It is a spiritual gift (see Eph. 4:11; much like the prophet has the spiritual gift of prophecy and the teacher has the spiritual gift of teaching and the evangelist has the gift of evangelism and the apostle has the gift of apostleship [see 1… Read More
It’s a popular quote, commonly attributed to Charles Spurgeon: “Discernment is not simply telling the difference between right and wrong; it’s telling the difference between right and almost right.” A Big Gospel in Small Places: Why Ministry in Forgotten Communities Matters Witmer, Stephen IVP. 216 pp.. Jesus loves small, insignificant places. In recent years, Christian ministries have increasingly prioritized urban areas. Big cities and suburbs are considered more strategic, more influential, and more desirable places to live and work. After all, they’re the centers for culture, arts, and education. More and more people are leaving small places and moving to big ones. As a ministry strategy, focusing on big places makes sense. But the gospel of Jesus is often unstrategic. In this book, pastor Stephen Witmer lays out an integrated theological vision for small-place ministry. Filled with helpful information about small places and with stories and practical advice from his own ministry, Witmer’s book offers a compelling, comprehensive vision for small-place ministry today. Jesus loves small places, and when we care deeply about them and invest in them over time, our ministry becomes a unique picture of the gospel—one that the world badly needs to see. This maxim, I’d suggest, also applies to ministry paradigms and practices. In his book A Big Gospel in Small Places: Why Ministry in Forgotten Communities Matters, Stephen Witmer argues that when it comes to missions and church planting today, the prevailing paradigm that focuses on reaching urban centers of size and influence is, well, almost right—but it may be missing some important things. Methods of Ministry Such issues, of course, aren’t new. They’ve been with us since at least the day after Pentecost. How shall the church decide carry out its central calling of preaching the gospel and making disciples of all nations? The questions in… Read More
Audio Transcript Last time, we talked about Christians who work on Sundays. Today, we talk about Christians who work every day. The question comes from Samantha. “Hello, Pastor John! I am honored to work in a very demanding field in DC, alongside a number of other young Christians who also work very hard. I think it’s safe to say we are overworking. It would be pretty normal for me and other young associates to put in seven-day workweeks. The phone is never off, texts never stop, the work never ends. It’s immersive. Work is life. And as much as we bemoan it, we struggle to know what to do in the moments when we are not working. Work gives us our cues for action in life, of what to do next. And thus, our work can undermine relationships and meaningful church involvement — everything that is not work. Even if we are not officially forced to work every day, the desires for advancement and for future success and for achieving financial security are such strong draws that to stop working feels like losing momentum to others in a very competitive career field. That’s my world right now, and it doesn’t feel healthy. At what point does vocational diligence become corrupting idolatry?” It seems to me that Samantha already has such an amazing grasp of the telltale signs of idolatry in the way she describes her situation. Maybe the best thing I can do is to give her a fresh set of categories for how to think about this — not at all contradicting what she’s already seen, but just coming at it a new way. Here are four words, which in Greek — yes, this is going to be relevant — have a positive meaning and a sinful meaning, and… Read More
Meet Roy. When he was 15, he and a group of students were attacked by a Muslim mob. Instead of renouncing his faith, the young Indonesian boldly declared: “I am a soldier of God . . . ready to die for Christ.” The last word he said was “Jesus.” Nineteen-year-old Mee had been a Christian scarcely two months when a Communist guard in her Laotian village approached her, pointed a gun to her head, and said: “If you continue to be a Christian, I will kill you now.” Mee replied: “You can kill my body, but not my spirit.” Over the past few years, new regulations in China have made it illegal for teens to attend church and for teachers, pastors, and parents to teach religion to anyone younger than 18. For disregarding these regulations, many have been arrested and imprisoned. I’m 19. I’ve considered myself a Christian for almost all my life. I’ve never been persecuted, threatened, or imprisoned for my faith. And I can’t help wondering: if I were Roy, Mee, or a teenager in China, would I follow Christ so faithfully? Changed My Walk with God Over the past few years, I’ve intentionally become more aware of the persecuted church. Reading about how Christ followers in Somalia are killed by their families for converting from Islam, and how believers in Iran risk everything to own a Bible, opened my eyes to my own often-complacent faith. I saw my apathy—reluctance to spend time with Christ, read his Word, and be with his people—in stark contrast to persecuted believers’ commitment to those same things. I became aware of how little I’ve actually given for Jesus in comparison to how much others have laid down. I’m thankful for religious freedom, but freedom can also sow seeds of complacency. I don’t long for… Read More
A.W. Tozer once memorably said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Though I agree with C.S. Lewis’s response to this line of thinking — that “how God thinks of us is . . . infinitely more important” than how we think of him — Tozer’s point is still crucial: “We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God” (The Knowledge of the Holy, 1). How we think about God determines how we live. Now, what comes into your mind when you think about Satan and his demons? Certainly, it is not the most important thing about you. And what God thinks about Satan and demons is infinitely more important than what we think of them. But what we think about the demonic realm is certainly not unimportant. “We must be more willing to be considered fools than to cruelly leave people the victims of enslaving evil.” Tweet Share on Facebook What do we think of what God has to say about the existence and activity of devils in Scripture? How seriously do we take what he says — not just in creed but in deed? How much does a conscious awareness of spiritual warfare functionally factor into our daily life? How does it affect how we pray? How does it inform the ways we see our areas of chronic temptation, fears, family dynamics, church conflicts, physical and mental illnesses, inhibited gospel fruitfulness, geopolitical events? What kinds of strategic spiritual action do we take in response to these things? These are important questions. Because how we think about satanic forces also determines in significant ways how we live. Are We Ignorant of His Designs? The New Testament authors wrote with a profound… Read More
For us to be transformed into the image of Christ, one essential factor is that we don’t conform to this world. We can’t let the world define terms and morality for us; we have to renew our minds according to how God defines terms. In the end, the world’s dictionary of definitions will be burned up and obliterated, but God’s standards will endure forever.
Over the past decade, interest in astrology—especially among the millennial generation—has been on the rise. “Astrology is currently enjoying a broad cultural acceptance that hasn’t been seen since the nineteen-seventies,” Christine Smallwood says in a recent article for The New Yorker. “The shift began with the advent of the personal computer, accelerated with the Internet, and has reached new speeds through social media.” Here nine things you should know about the ancient practice of celestial divination: 1. Astrology is a type of divination that involves the forecasting of earthly and human events through the observation and interpretation of the fixed stars, the Sun, the Moon, and the planets. Several ancient cultures developed some form of astrology, with the oldest originating during the Old Babylonian period (circa 2000 BC) in Mesopotamia (an area that covers much of modern Iraq and Kuwait, as well as parts of Syria and Turkey). Some forms of astrology posit that the stars manifest the divine will of a god or gods while others rely on a totally mechanistic universe. 2. Genethlialogy (“the study that pertains to births”) or “natal astrology” is the application of astrology to the birth of individuals, in order to determine information about the nature and course of a person’s life. The idea is that since the universe is interrelated, astronomical bodies exert an influence on newborn children. The main subdivisions after genethlialogy are general, catarchic, and interrogatory. General or mundane astrology studies the relationship of the significant celestial moments to social groups, nations, or all of humanity. Catarchic or electional astrology determines whether or not a chosen moment is astrologically conducive to the success of a course of action. Interrogatory or horary astrology provides answers to a person’s questions, usually through “chart readings” based on the alignment of the celestial bodies at the moment of their posing… Read More